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EU vehicles better in frontal crashes, those in U.S. better for pedestrians

Staff writer |
An international research study examined the hypotheses that vehicles meeting EU safety standards perform similarly to U.S.-regulated vehicles in the U.S. driving environment, and vice versa.

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The methodology is innovative and first of its kind, and the study indicates differences in performance between EU and U.S. motor-vehicles.

The study is the first side-by-side comparison of predicted risk for EU-regulated and U.S.-regulated vehicles. It was conducted collaboratively by The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (Umtri), U.S., and Safer Vehicle and Traffic Safety Centre at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, in association with Centre Européen d'Etudes de Sécurité et d'Analyse des Risques (Ceesar), France, and Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), United Kingdom.

The research question of investigating safety performance was motivated by the ongoing negotiations between the EU and the U.S. concerning the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement.

One potential barrier to trade is the differing safety standards testing and requirements for vehicles sold in the EU and the U.S. Testing the same make/model under both regimens is an expensive process, and negotiation of common standards may be difficult and time-consuming.

However, if vehicles are shown to provide similar real-world safety protection to the occupants, then vehicles that meet EU regulations could potentially be recognized for sale in the U.S., and vehicles that meet U.S. regulations could potentially be recognized for sale in the EU.

Therefore, a study investigating the question of essentially equivalent safety performance was sponsored by the Auto Alliance in the U.S. Independent experts from Umtri and Safer, two leading transportation research organizations, carried out the study.

To compare risks, the researchers analysed a number of U.S. and EU crash data sources.

The results suggest that when controlling for differences in environment and exposure, vehicles meeting EU standards offer reduced risk of serious injury in frontal/side crashes and have driver-side mirrors that reduce risk in lane-change crashes better, while vehicles meeting U.S. standards provide a lower risk of injury in rollovers and have headlamps that make pedestrians more conspicuous.

The EU and U.S. injury risk models are different for both front/side crashes and rollovers.

Though the range of estimates is wide, overall risk across both the U.S. and the EU front-side crash population (given the selection criteria for this study,) is likely lower for EU vehicles.

Risk differences in front/side crashes are largest for near-side crashes, middle occupant ages (31-70), unbelted occupants, and higher crash severities (measured in terms of the change of velocity in the crash).

Overall risk across both EU and U.S. rollover crash populations is lower for U.S. vehicles. In rollovers, risk differences were highest for unbelted occupants and ejected occupants.

U.S. ratio of pedestrian fatalities in dark vs. light is estimated to be lower than in the EU. One possible explanation for this is that headlamps in U.S. vehicles may illuminate pedestrians better than those in EU vehicles.

EU ratio of driver-side lane changes compared to passenger-side lane changes, based on data from only two EU countries, is lower than in the U.S.. One possible explanation for this is that driver-side mirrors in EU vehicles reduce risk in lane-change crashes better than those in U.S. vehicles.

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